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‘Treasure’ found

Disney taps Turteltaub for summer '00 pic

“Phenomenon” helmer Jon Turteltaub will direct and produce the big-ticket pic “National Treasure” for Disney, slated to open for the Independence Day weekend in 2000.

Pic, which will be budgeted in the $60 million to $90 million range, is about a modern-day treasure hunt for a Revolutionary War secret stash of cash hidden by Jefferson, Washington and Franklin to help finance the war.

Mouse execs are looking to it as a tentpole summer release for next year. Disney is setting up the project with tie-ins to a number of merchandisers and companies, including McDonald’s.

The bigger budget is something of a departure for the Mouse House, which in the past year has cut back on the number of high-priced projects it produces. Disney chairman Joe Roth, however, has maintained that Disney still has a strong interest in event pics.

Disney wants to get it into production by June or July. Buena Vista Motion Pictures president David Vogel and senior VP of production Todd Garner are the execs handling the pic.

Turteltaub is producing with his partner Christina Steinberg as well as Hunt Lowry.

Jim Kauf (“Rush Hour,” “Stakeout”) is penning the script. No casting has been set.

“It’s got its share of special effects,” Turteltaub said. “It’s really a big action adventure comedy. But for me, I still think of it as a character piece.”

Oren Aviv, head of creative advertising at Disney, and Charles Segars, an exec at DreamWorks TV, came up with the idea two years ago and developed it with Turteltaub. Aviv and Segars will exec produce.

Turteltaub’s other credits include “Rocket Man,” “While You Were Sleeping,” “Cool Runnings” and “3 Ninjas.”

Turteltaub’s deal was brokered by Endeavor. ICM’s Jim Wiatt repped Kauf.

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